How to Control the Chaos as a Scrum Master
- Scrum Master
A great Scrum Master looks at challenges as opportunities. Being a Scrum Master is a tremendous opportunity and responsibility to help coach, mentor, and support your team. View challenges as opportunities to learn and help teach that mindset to your team so they grow personally, and help the company achieve its goals.
When you start a new job, you’re usually focused on making a great first impression. This was a challenging new assignment due to the complexity of the project. I wanted to ensure that the Product Owner and I worked well together to help the team succeed, but we did not get off to a great start. At one point during the project, the previous Scrum Master left, and the Product Owner assumed the role of Scrum Master in addition to his existing duties as a Product Owner. This led to major team dysfunctions. By the time I joined the team as a Scrum Master, the Scrum team was frustrated, didn’t understand the goal that they were working towards, and the team was not communicating effectively. Developers were confused and frustrated that they would begin work and in the middle of the sprint, they were asked to stop their work and shift to a new priority. This caused them to not deliver on their commitments and created context switching, switching between tasks, making it harder to complete work, and increasing mistakes.
It was also obvious that the developers were burnt out from taking on new work after already committing to a large effort. Additionally, the team did not know how well the sprints were going and whether they would deliver on their goal. Nobody voiced any impediments that popped up throughout the sprint that were preventing them from completing their work.
My first job, as a Scrum Master, was to protect the team from interruption, so they could finish their work and deliver on their sprint goal. I asked the Scrum team to push back if the Product Owner gave them new work mid-sprint. I asked them to direct the Product Owner to me for discussion on priorities if this happened. This began our journey of working collaboratively with the team to understand what new user stories were being asked for, the priority, determining the number of points, and swapping out stories when necessary.
My goal was to get the team to communicate more frequently and share their progress with the team so they could understand how the team was progressing overall so they could help each other, and I could assist with resolving impediments.
It can be intimidating working with a new team and implementing changes when you’re starting out as a Scrum Master. Things become less intimidating when I began to focus on my why instead of other’s reactions to change. My why was to help protect the team so they could finish their goal. Additionally, instead of implementing all Scrum framework changes at once and overwhelming the team, I worked with the team to gradually influence change. This helped us reach our sprint and product goals. One of the best parts of Scrum is helping others understand the how and why of Scrum, to use it to the fullest, and reap all the benefits. I love helping build relationships and trust within teams so they can work better together to reach the common goal of delivering a product.
If you are just starting out, I advise you to remember your why and build close relationships with your teammates to build trust. One of the best ways to do this is by listening carefully to what others are saying to truly understand why they are saying it rather than listening to respond. When your Scrum team discusses their challenges, you are there to support them but it’s important to let them determine new solutions and learn from their mistakes so they can grow personally and professionally.